Sanitation Is For The Birds

Shout out to Sara Thibadeau, Sales at Bird Buffer, for providing the information for this post.

BIRD OBSERVATIONS

I am not necessarily a bird watcher, but I do think they are interesting creatures. I find it fascinating that birds, somewhat, defy gravity. Wings spread out to the sides, coasting effortlessly through the sky. I know not all birds are capable of flying at intense heights, and the only place a turkey is going is on my dinner table.

When I lived in my mom’s house, she had a macaw. That green and yellow, squawking bird and I, had a love-hate relationship. I would sit on the floor to read a newspaper, and she would steal my Cool Ranch Doritos from the bag. Sly as Cookie was, she wouldn’t let me hand feed her. The tortilla chips probably aren’t the best diet for a house bird, but the sneaky behavior was hilarious.

Cleaning The Cage

No one in the house wanted the chore of cleaning the bird cage. Partially chewed frozen vegetables, sunflower seed hulls, crumbs of walnuts all left a mess. Then there is the other issue – bird poop. You know, the garbage in, garbage out function. Since Cookie basically had the run of the house, droppings weren’t just contained to the cage. That meant all of us housemates were being exposed to diseases, their symptoms, and some pretty serious health complications.

As much as I hate to admit this, I have been struck on top of my head by a “fly by”. Uuggh! I was in the middle of a softball game, and used my water jug to clean it off. We lost the game, but that’s a story for another time.

Way before my pest professional days, I thought it was just gross. I had no idea how a direct exposure could potentially affect me.

DISEASES & FOOD SUPPLY

I have some experience with commercial hog farm operations. It was there that I learned about Transmissible Gastroenteritis (TGE), a bird disease that has some horrible effects on piglets. Carried by starlings, pigs ingest the viral spores and become sick with vomiting and diarrhea. When left untreated, TGE can have some dire consequences to the hog population.

Chickens aren’t immune to transmission of diseases either. Mites found on their bodies can carry encephalitis, and may cause dermatitis in humans.

Pigeon nests can host yellow mealworms. These commonly are found grain products, and cause intestinal distress when consumed in breakfast cereals.

SUIT UP!

When deciding to clean up the bird mess, the proper personal protective equipment is totally necessary. It would consist of gloves, safety glasses, safety shoes, a head covering like a hard hat, appropriate respiratory protection, and a non-permeable suit. Some type of cleaning agent to dissolve and absorb the droppings is the preferred method.

I’m sure you all are tired of “Stay Safe”, but take heed. A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with Histoplasmosis. It was a long tedious process to get to the cause of her illness, and treatment has now begun. This really is serious stuff.

First In, Last To Leave

Ever feel like you are stuck in a revolving door? No, I’m not talking about your daily pest control schedule. I’m talking about that ever elusive pest problem you’re having trouble getting solved for a customer. Callback after callback, inspection after inspection, keeps you scratching your head.

Ants to the left. Mice to the right. Here I am, stuck in the middle with stored product pests. (Sorry, I had to sing)

Inspection

With flashlight in hand, you are looking at cracks, crevices, in, around, under, through areas of concern. You moved boxes, climbed a ladder, looked at trash barrels.

Then…. that AhHa moment! You grab (not literally) the manager. “Hey, what’s your FIFO program like?” First In First Out is important when it comes to quality product rotation. It’s also an important factor when managing and eradicating pest populations. The one pallet of product that kept getting pushed to the back of the row is now causing pest issues.

With the help of your account personnel, it’s time to move it, move it, move it. Get that long forgotten product out in the open so we can inspect the contents.

Happy Home

Mice love it. It’s secluded and dark. Food is abundant. Ants found the environment satisfying. The forklift driver left a soft drink sitting nearby. They are inviting friends to indulge on that sticky syrup concoction. Stored product pests find this a palace due to the grain based product acting like a Thanksgiving dinner table.

Layer by layer, you’ve got to look carefully. Each pest has a unique way of attracting other pests. No wonder they act like best friends.

Press 1 For Complaints

We all have THAT customer. You know the one. The one who keeps threatening to “find a better bug person”. The one who will never be happy with the professional pest work that we provide.

In years past, I have had some customers who were challenging. At one location, I was met at every service visit by a pest control administrator who had an issue. I fielded questions about my expertise, or a damaged trap, or mystery bugs that “aren’t supposed to be here”.

“Yes, Sir. I understand. I will be happy to take a look at the situation,” I say. “I will give you a full report.”

Customer service in a public setting is tough. Customer service in a semi- non-public setting is tougher. It’s just you and your customer…. no witnesses. Your best behavior is crucial, all while gritting your teeth, and trying to choose your words carefully. That customer knows your other customers, whether in a formal or informal fashion.

If a customer insists on taking to a manager, I will ask them to call the company phone number. Press option 1, (There is no Option 1) and they will get the owner…. that’s me. {giggle}

I hope my Miss America smile wasn’t too fake. Good reviews go a long way. A bad review will go farther.

It’s NOT Casual Friday

Do Not Hire A Pest Control Company!

Does reading that statement make you mad? Does that statement make you think I am crazy? Does that statement even make sense?

I’ll give you a minute……

Be A Person YOU Can Trust

As pest control professionals, we want customers. We want them to be repeat customers. We want them to be happy with our services. We want them to recommend our service to others.

Notice that I didn’t say “We need customers”. We really don’t need customers. In fact, THEY need us. They just don’t know it…yet.

When marketing your company and its services, what’s the end game? To make money? To build a client base? To “one up” the competition? All of these can be true, but it takes time and a lot of effort.

For me, my resolve is to be trusted….by my industry, by my colleagues, but especially by my customers. I will not take advantage of their lack of proper pest control knowledge to make a quick dollar.

How We Get There

We start that trust by ALWAYS doing the right things. Show up on time, and in a proper uniform. Greet the customer pleasantly and with interest. Explain your processes and answer ALL questions. Commence job functions professionally and safely.

Having a well stocked service vehicle is crucial. Making sure that you’ll have the supplies to handle the task at hand is important. Are you prepared to tackle a cockroach treatment for a residential account, then switch to a rodent issue at the commercial facility?

What about the cleanliness and repair condition of your company vehicle? That rolling billboard is the best of the best for advertising. I know you take clients to lunch occasionally. Clean out the passenger floorboard of today’s fast food trash.

Professional Appearance Is A Must

A clean, neat uniform gives a touch of class. There is no need to service accounts in a three piece suit. An appropriate company logo’d shirt with functional jeans or cargo pants are what most PCOs choose. First impressions really are everything.

Sturdy work boots can keep our feet from absorbing material when mixing and applying chemicals. Safety toes can lessen us from harm if we should drop equipment on our feet. I don’t recommend this, (we’ve all done it) but a good pair of boots can make kicking open bait stations easier.

That 1st Sentence

In reality, customers should not hire a pest control company. Customers should hire a person within that pest control company who is a professional that can be trusted. It is an ego pump to know that YOU were the professional – not technician- who was requested when a customer scheduled a service. The reason….. casual Friday is not in your vocabulary.

What’s In The Bait Station?

I need to remind myself not to get nonchalant when servicing bait stations. I know I do a great job cleaning, adding rodenticide, and recording the information. I get in a groove listening to the music blaring in my headphones. At times, I turn into the trap checker. That has come to bite me a few times…. literally.

WHAT A SURPRISE

Bait Station Number 22 had some rodent feeding. I cleaned out the nesting materials and the rodenticide crumbles. I turned it around backwards to check the hinged lid. Damn! As I jumped back, I got a quick glimpse of a creepy bug. After catching my breath, my heart rate slowed down. It’s just a wheel bug.

I pulled out my phone, snapped a picture, and emailed it to the staff entomologist. I knew she would love it. The reply came a couple of minutes later. “Nice bug porn.” Huh? A second look at the picture revealed two insects. I shook my head.

THOSE BEADY EYES

The padlock on Protecta Station 25 is stuck. A squirt of WD-40 will loosen the dirt to unlock it. I pinched the tab, and raised the lid. Something with eyes and a tail is staring back at me. OMG! It’s a Norway Rat.

I slammed the lid. “You can do this. You can do this. Breathe, just breathe.”

I clean rodent devices with a parts washing brush. It’s heavier and longer than the typical paint brush and the bristles can get into corners. I took it out of my supply bucket and held it firmly. Slowly opening the bait station lid, I could see those eyes staring at me. It was a toss up as to who was more scared.

Swinging that brush like a baseball bat, I was aiming for the rat to disorient him. I severely misjudged the speed of my swing, and I missed my contact point. My knuckle wasn’t so lucky. The bait holding rod went through the skin on my knuckle. The first aid kit in my truck was on the opposite side of the building. Not wanting to leave a blood trail, I used my hairnet and a zip tie as a bandage.

CUSTOMER GETS A NEW STATION

I was working stations on the far fence line. All is going well. No cause for concern. Then, in the 100* weather, a stinch hits me.

Eeewww! My nose and my stomach tried to hold on. There’s part of a hairless tail sticking out of the entry hole. On the inside of Station 18 was an animal that was unidentifiable. My best guess is what was left of an opossum. No way I am gonna clean that out. I’ll just replace it.

Two bait stations away was another in the same condition. This time, a cuddly rabbit had taken cover and forgot to leave. It wasn’t so cute when I found it.

I purposely left out a picture. I’m sure you can imagine the scene.

Michelle Hates Spiders

My friend Michelle doesn’t like spiders. She has a severe case of arachnophobia. I am not particularly afraid of spiders. I just don’t like to be startled by them.

Like most of my fellow pest control colleagues, I often find black widows in bait stations. They tend to harbor in the lid portion to build webs and to have their young. It’s dark, quiet, and cozy.

Imagine my surprise to find this “monster” in Station #19. Look closely – you can see what looks like a face…. but this is actually the underside of the abdomen.

I DON’T LIKE SNAKE-LIKE CREATURES

While learning a new account, the manager was giving me some tips on how to make my inspections more efficient. We were almost finished with bait station service, and about to open VM RBS EZ Secure #38 of 40.

I pushed the key into the lock and popped the lid up. I screamed and slammed the top down. (I know you can picture the manager laughing at me.) What I thought it was a snake darting from the station, was actually a skink.

As you can see from this picture, it would look snake-like at first glance. Their legs are so short, it’s hard to tell that wasn’t a snake.

My most hated pest control creatures – in order- Snakes, lizards, frogs, turtles. They all give me shivers.

Tell Me Your Story

Wanna leave me a message about what you’ve seen? Tell me your story.

tattletailspest@gmail.com